Outpouring of Care and Support Brings Endangered Porpoise Closer to Safe Waters

When just 30 animals of a specific species are left in the world, the zoo and aquarium communities accredited through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are compelled to act. The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden has partnered with over 100 other AZA-accredited institutions to help save the vaquita (Vah-KEE-tah) porpoise from extinction. Vaquitas, or “little cows” in Spanish, are the smallest and most endangered cetacean in the world.
To date, AZA organizations have contributed over $1 million toward the emergency rescue of the Vaquita. AZA and its members are joining the Mexican government, which today announced that it is pledging up to $3 million to support the VaquitaCPR emergency rescue plan. VaquitaCPR (Conservation, Protection and Recovery) is an emergency action plan led by the Mexican government, with the input of an expert group of conservation scientists and marine mammal veterinarians. The Zoo has pledged $5,000 from its Round Up for Conservation emergency intervention funds, collected from Zoo guests who volunteer to “round up” to the next dollar amount on purchases made at the Zoo.
“Without these combined rescue efforts, the vaquita will soon be extinct,” said Dr. Rebecca Snyder, Zoo curator of conservation and science. “We are fortunate to have these funds from our home-base conservation fundraising effort for emergencies such as the VaquitaCPR emergency rescue plan.”
Vaquita can easily become entangled and subsequently drown in gill nets used to illegally catch other species, including the endangered totoaba fish, found off the coasts of the northwestern corner of the Gulf of California, Mexico. The fish’s swim bladder is used in traditional Chinese medicine. In addition to securing funds, AZA is teaming up with other conservation organizations to capture the remaining vaquita and place them in sea pens to try to establish a protected assurance colony.
The Zoo is a founding member of the AZA’s Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program and the vaquita is one of the 10 signature SAFE species. AZA institutions have played a key role in bringing back other species from the verge of extinction by establishing protective housing and breeding programs, such as for the California condor, Arabian oryx, golden lion tamarin and American bison. This expertise provided by AZA members is very valuable to the Vaquita Rescue Effort. The Zoo has other SAFE species in its animal collection, including the Asian elephant, gorilla, cheetah and shark.
Donations to the VaquitaCPR emergency rescue plan can be made through the Zoo by calling the ZOOfriends’ office at (405) 425-0611 or can be made online at www.VaquitaCPR.org.. A complete list of the AZA-accredited facilities that have contributed to the AZA SAFE Vaquita Rescue Plan can be found online at https://www.aza.org/donors-to-the-aza-safe-vaquita-rescue-project. To review the AZA SAFE Vaquita Conservation Action Plan, visit https://www.aza.org/safe-vaquita-conservation-projects.
Show your support for all the little and large animals of the world. Round Up for Conservation with every purchase at the Zoo!